Downton redux; series four and beyond-will Downton lose its heart and soul? with an update

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Update with thoughts about Mary. As much as I don’t want to think about Mary, and in fact am quite sick to death of her, when describing the upcoming series Neame and Fellowes both couch it in terms of Mary and her actions. “The spine of the show revolves around Mary rebuilding her life.” (Of course they have their talking points and they’re sticking to them!) But what does this mean? Why is Mary rebuilding her life such a big deal? I keep thinking about this and have come to the tentative conclusion that Mary does something worth noting as she is rebuilding, or to rebuild, unless the whole thing is a false scent to lead us off the actual trail. But really, what could Mary do? In the latest interview Neame makes it clear that she is still in mourning and won’t be entertaining suitors, so a new man is not the big change, and I can’t imagine her taking a torch to Downton one night. So what is it? Does she go to the Levinson’s in Newport (or New York) to lick her wounds? It’s the only big move I can think of, and I don’t quite know what to think about it. Do you have any ideas? I hate speculating about Mary, but since that’s the only bait they’re throwing…

Escaping with Downton Abbey is a blessed relief; what I find when I dive into my boxed sets is always reliable and brilliant, and I may have to watch all three series again one more time before the US premiere of series four in January.

It seems, considering it’s already in production, we will see a full series four, albeit without several central characters who moved on to new opportunities. Unlike some Downton fans, I am sanguine about those departures. People die and employees change situations in real life, so we should expect Fellowes to be up to the task of continuing the story without them.

But will Downton survive the possible loss of its heart and soul? Who/what I am talking about? Julian Fellowes of course! It seems all this success led the powers that be in American TV to greenlight a pilot he wrote called The Gilded Age, and he has already said it would be impossible for him to write both shows at the same time. This is no secret, and Fellowes and executive producer Gareth Neame have both speculated on what it would mean to Downton. Of course they are very cryptic, but we know there are only two options-new writers taking over for Fellowes, or the end of the show.

As much as I want the series to persist for as long as the parties deem appropriate (which can be different in British telly than it is here), and understand that characters will come and go, Downton would just not be Downton without Fellowes’ brilliant scripts! A pale approximation of Downton, perhaps, but really, not good enough. Personally I think the producers should call an end to the whole thing if Fellowes leaves. Don’t screw it up-quit while you are still brilliant and then everyone can move on. (Of course this would mean no more production fees for Highclere estate, but surely with all the tourism, and possibilities for more location shooting, the house and estate will carry on intact?!)

If the producers don’t take my advice and instead continue the show with new writers, I don’t think I will be able to watch it. It just won’t be Downton without Fellowes’ unique perspective and writing style. What do you think? Will you watch if Fellowes leaves?

On to my predictions and my wish list. I  certainly can’t presume to predict events, but nothing will keep me from speculating and wishing about series four.

First of all, Mary! In every interview Fellowes says Mary’s recovery and reentry into life is the focus of this series-really? I expect a lot more from series four! Sometimes I think Fellowes has a soft spot for Mary ala Lord Grantham or Carson. My opinion of her is closer to Mrs Hughes’, although of course I am glad Mary had her baby before she lost the love of her life. According to a recent interview with Neame, Mary is not on the lookout for suitors this series, but “Mary rebuilding her life will be the spine of the show”. But what does that involve precisely? We must wait to find out, unfortunately.

Some story lines/plot turns I would like to see, in general order of importance:

What about Edith? She is overshadowed by her sister at every turn, and wants to strike out as her own woman, but I hope that doesn’t mean becoming Gregson’s mistress just because he is forbidden. Does she really love him, or is he just a symbol of rebellion? Matthew was really her only champion and he’s gone now (he didn’t approve of Gregson but he was the only one who knew the whole story-hmmm); does she want to throw it all away for another “hard case”, as Mary would say? Speaking of Mary, I have to admit that Edith’s chances of finding a good man are practically nil if she stays at Downton; her sister is available again, even if in mourning, and to top it off, the mother of the future Earl of Grantham. Edith can’t begin to compete with that! My solution, and wish for Edith? Go to London, (nothing wrong with seeing more of that location) move in with Aunt Rosamund, and write her column. Hopefully she doesn’t fall into Gregson’s arms without first stepping back and evaluating the entire situation with a clear head; she’s an adult now, we (or at least I) expect that of her! (Lord Fellowes are you listening?)

However, if Mary goes to America as I speculate in my update above, Edith has a clear field! Well maybe not. Mary’s bound to come back eventually, and she is the mother of the heir. I still think London is Edith’s best bet.

Next-Mrs. O’Brien. Siobhan Finneran, who played O’Brien, left the show, but Fellowes did not kill off her character. My guess, from the bread crumbs tossed down in the Christmas special, is that O’Brien accompanies Shrimpy’s wife to India as her lady’s maid. So who will be Lady Cora’s lady’s maid? This is a very important question, as the lady’s maid has an extremely pivotal role in the house and the show. I don’t see any current players moving into the role, so Fellowes has a choice. Will he make the new maid a nasty martinet 95% of the time like O’Brien, or a straightlaced but good hearted person, maybe someone with a secret past that unfolds over the series?

Branson, or Tom, excuse me! We left him as a distraught widower with a baby and a big job as manager of the estate. With Matthew, the business head of the family, now gone, that job will become even more complicated. Is he up to it? Will he be able to stay away from Ireland? And what about his romantic prospects? There may be some trouble somehow with Branson; maybe he will go to Ireland and get arrested, maybe he will take up with a local girl or some American. (Cousin Rose would be too convenient, although she could see him without his shirt, forget all about the married men in London, and fall head over heels, little Sibby and all. It could happen. In any case, I do hope he doesn’t start up with the nanny-how boring!) I don’t see them depriving us of Sibby though, although she may well be in some kind of danger at some point.

What about Cousin Rose? She is the new girl in town, and seems to represent the roaring twenties. What kind of trouble will she get into? Will they be able to keep her down on the farm at Downton? (Well maybe if she sees Tom without his shirt!) I think the new girl will tone down her adventures a bit and work on bringing Downton’s social life into the twenties. (Maybe she’s the reason we have a black singer in the cast now?) Carson won’t like it, but let’s face it, he has NEVER approved of her anyway.

Bates and Anna. It seems all is coming up roses for Mr. and Mrs. Bates; the only thing to make that cosy cottage homier is a little Bates, probably a little boy. But I don’t think Fellowes will leave the Bates without some kind of heartache. Maybe a long lost relative surfaces to make trouble for Anna? She hasn’t said much about her family in the past. And what about her status in the house? It’s long past time for Mrs. Hughes to hire a head housemaid and let poor overworked Anna have one job for a change; after all, turning Lady Mary out is quite a job in itself!

Carson and Mrs. Hughes. I know I am not the only one that hopes these two will get together eventually; I don’t think there is much more to be done with them plotwise, and I wish them both all the happiness. However, the house won’t run itself; there’s still plenty of work for them. Hope they get a nice honeymoon before they get on with it, at least.

What about Daisy? She has the opportunity to inherit William’s father’s farm-will she take it? I would miss the back and forth between Daisy and Mrs Patmore, but life must go on, and the farm is Daisy’s rightful place in so many ways.

Thomas is a perpetual enigma. Of course there will be some friction with Alfred (will Alfred’s status and position change without his aunt around to manage him?), although I think he is square with Jimmy now-excuse me James. His new position as underbutler technically puts him ahead of Bates, as his Lordship’s valet, in the downstairs pecking order, so there may be some rough edges, but how can he forget that Bates saved his job and his life?

I must not neglect Lady Violet; she is always a part of all the goings on without any of it happening directly to her, and I do hope she gets a real situation this series. Wouldn’t  it be brilliant if Dame Judi shows up as an old nemesis; a rival for her husband’s attentions back in the day, perhaps? Someone else with secrets to reveal? Or maybe some long lost relative back from America? I’m sure Cora’s mother, in the person of Shirley MacLaine, will return, but she is really no match for Lady Violet or Dame Maggie-time to get Violet a better sparring partner, at least for a couple episodes. But then of course there’s always Mrs. Crawley. (What about her and the doctor?)

I could go on and on but I think I will end there. Of course there are a myriad of possibilities and twists and turns, and although I hope Lord Fellowes will take me up on some of my suggestions, I am counting on him to surprise me as well. Thanks for all that.

For more on Downton, please click on my earlier post- Downton Abbey-the Facets of a Diamond.

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4 Responses to Downton redux; series four and beyond-will Downton lose its heart and soul? with an update

  1. justlife57 says:

    I still haven’t seen any of it!

  2. Dr. Eowyn says:

    Hollywood’s crass powers-that-be will not help but interfere in Julian Fellowes’ vision for “The Gilded Age,” which means TGA will not be up to the quality of “Downton Abbey.” Which means TGA will crash and burn.

    Therein lies our hope for Fellowes’ continuing helming Downton! Fingers crossed. LOL

    • Elizabeth says:

      Interesting! In that case I just hope that TGA starts and finishes all before Series five is set to begin. It’s a shame, really-I love the TGA idea-I’m sure Fellowes would bring some balance and sanity to the whole “robber baron” myth (Hollywood won’t like that), but I do wish they’d waited until he had said all he wanted to in Downton. So rude 😉
      Thanks for reading and happy Downton!

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